Michigan residents must renew their benefits annually to continue receiving public assistance. Unfortunately, each assistance program had its own renewal form, and the process was plagued by complicated language and undelivered forms. As a result, many residents lost their benefits and the state spent about $25 million annually correcting errors.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) worked with Civilla to condense the renewal process. The team adopted an iterative approach and did extensive field work, including 30 site visits and a number of interviews, to identify areas for improvement in the existing renewal process. They replaced the forms tied to each program with one core form and short supplemental forms for certain agencies.
The team used plain language, clarified due dates, and highlighted important information on the new form. Certain fields on the form even come pre-filled with any information already on record for benefits recipients. They then tested a prototype of the form on potential users and used the feedback to update their design. Civilla trained agency and community organization staff on the changes.
Project Outcomes and Impact
After the redesign, renewal form submissions increased by 12 percent and successful renewals increased by 15 percent. Errors decreased by 60 percent and the team successfully saved caseworkers 200,000 hours per year. Today, 95 percent of renewal forms are submitted on time.
Similar to Michigan's efforts to redesign its application form, simply writing in plain language, adding clear instructions, and reducing repetition can improve user experience. Applying the results of field work to redesign efforts also contributes to increased usability. These changes simultaneously help residents and eliminate operational bottlenecks for government agencies.